Activity-based course design for online teaching

Year: 2021

Author: Cripps Clark, John

Type of paper: Individual Paper

In an extensive review of research in instructional design and technology, Bodily, Leary, and West (2019) concluded: “we also found that the scholarship in our field is very technology-centric, and our field could benefit from a greater balance of papers studying theory and design frameworks” (p. 78). This paper responds to that cri de coeur by using Vygotsky’s ideas, as developed in cultural-historical activity theory, to propose a design framework for online courses.Online teaching and learning has rapidly developed in both the range and depth thus it is opportune to rethink what is needed in online course design by returning to first principles of learning. Anyone who has transferred face-to-face courses into the online environment has inevitably found this to be a challenging task, even when based on the use of technologies that seek to mimic elements of face-to-face teaching. We claim that we cannot develop effective online learning environments by merely adapting face-to-face strategies and practices, but rather we need a theory-based design framework to develop online courses from the ground up. In this paper, we will use Vygotsky and Leontiev’s ideas to analyse the online teaching and learning environment so as to build a coherent process and practice for course design rather than trying to shoehorn processes and practices which have been developed for face-to-face teaching. This enables us to create an activity based model for course design using Vygotsky’s cultural-historical theory and the theory of activity of his colleague, Leontiev.The ABID approach to instructional design provides the course designer and instructor with:1.  design that is student-centered,2.  a focus on the salient features of the learning activity (and ignores the irrelevant);3.   a naturally modular learning environment that is adaptable in implementation;4.  assessment of student performance based on engagement in and completion of each activity; and   5.  a language to communicate the elements of good online design and teaching which can be used not only to guide our own thinking but also to induct new online designers and teachers into professional expertise in online teaching.When there is a synergy between technology and pedagogy everyone benefits: learning designers find solutions for teachers and teachers make effective use of the tools developed by learning designers